Naomi Ragen is an American-born novelist, playwright and journalist who has lived in Jerusalem since 1971. Naomi has written for the Jerusalem Post and other publications in Israel and abroad, as well as to her mailing list, about Israel and Jewish issues.


“The
Naomi's just-published tenth novel The Devil in Jerusalem has been chosen by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency as the number one Jewish book of the season.
The story - inspired by true events - begins with an ambulance screaming through Jerusalem’s quiet streets. Inside, a toddler fights for his life, his parents nowhere to be found. With profound shock, an emergency room doctor realizes that the child’s mother, a young American, is already at the hospital sitting at the bedside of yet another child with traumatic injuries, devoutly reciting Psalms and stubbornly refusing to answer any questions. “שטן
The Devil in Jerusalem is a chilling tale of the paths that so easily lead us astray, and the darkness within us all. Click the book’s cover to learn more.

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Naomi has published ten internationally best-selling novels, and is the author of a hit play (Women's Minyan) that has been performed more than 500 times in Israel's National Theatre (Habimah) as well as in the United States and Argentina.
An Orthodox woman, feminist and iconoclast, Naomi is a tireless advocate for women's rights in Israel, waging a relentless campaign against domestic abuse and bias in rabbinical courts, as well as a successful Supreme Court case against gender segregation on Israeli buses.
With her tenth novel, The Devil in Jerusalem, Naomi continues her ground-breaking exploration of women in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish world she began in 1989 with Jephte's Daughter, followed by Sotah and The Sacrifice of Tamar.
Naomi is a sought-after lecturer all over the world. If your group is interested in hosting Naomi, please click here.


November 2015 - The Jewish Telegraphic Agency puts The Devil in Jerusalem at the top of its list of the best Jewish books of the season.
November 2015 - Naomi lectured in Newton (MA), Boca Raton (FL), Miami (FL), St. Louis (MO), New York City, Atlanta (GA), Cherry Hill (NJ) and Santa Fe (NM).
“שטןAugust 2015 - Naomi’s new book, שטן בירושלים, a translation of The Devil in Jerusalem, is published.
Le Dixieme Chant8-19 March 2015 - Naomi toured France and Switzerland, speaking to her readers in Paris, Marseilles, Strasbourg and Geneva about her new French book, Le Dixieme Chant, a translation of The Tenth Song.
12-20 November 2014 - Naomi lectured at the Windsor Writer’s Conference in Windsor, ON as well as in Detroit, Toronto and Winnipeg.
The Sisters Weiss7 October 2014 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published in paperback. It's the story of two sisters from an ultra-Orthodox family in 1950s Brooklyn who take very different paths, and then find their lives unexpectedly intersecting again forty years later. To order the book from Amazon, click the book cover above.

8-17 August 2014 - Naomi was the scholar-in-residence on Kosherica's Kosher Baltic Cruise aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Star. The 9 night cruise visited Copenhagen, Rostock, Tallinn, Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Stockholm.

Salone Internazionale del Libro 8-9 May 2014 - Naomi took part in a panel discussion on women in Israel, together with Fiamma Nirenstein and Elena Loewenthal, at the Salone Internazionale del Libro 2014 in Turin, Italy.

December 2013 - Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about her struggle against the haredi war on women in Israel.
Watch an interview (in French) with Naomi about Le Serment.


December 2013 - Naomi visited Île-de-France to promote her new book Le serment (the French translation of The Covenant).


Sotah 15 March 2012 - Sotah was published in Italian as L'amora proibito. Read a review (in Italian).

Jephte's Daughter March 2012 - Jephte's Daughter was published in an Italian paperback edition, as Una moglie a Gerusalemme.

Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes October 2011 - The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was published in French as Le Fantôme de Dona Gracia Mendes. Read a review (in French).

The Tenth Song October 2011 - The Tenth Song was published in paperback.

May 2011 - Four-time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh directed a staged reading of Women's Minyan at New York's Westside Theater. The reading was produced by One Circle Productions, in partnership with Safe Horizon.

Watch the reading. Watch an interview with Naomi and Tovah Feldshuh.

Le serment November 2013 - The Covenant was published in French as Le serment.

November 2013 - Watch an interview with Naomi by Sharon Mor of Shaulina Productions about Naomi's new book The Sisters Weiss in Hebrew or in English.

6 November 2013 - Israel's Supreme Court reversed the District Court's decision against Naomi in the Shapiro case and ordered Shapiro to return the money she was awarded. Naomi agreed that the money be donated to charity.
October-November 2013 - Naomi toured the US, visiting twelve US cities and speaking about her new book, The Sisters Weiss.
The Sisters Weiss October 2013 - Naomi's ninth novel, The Sisters Weiss, was published. Read an article about it in the San Diego Jewish World.
Chains Around the Grass August 2013 - Chains Around the Grass was published in an Amazon Kindle edition.
July 2013 - An interview with Naomi about her trips to Spain to research her best-selling The Ghost of Hannah Mendes was featured in Jewish Travel.
December 2012 - Naomi's play Women's Minyan was performed by the West Boca Theatre Company at the Levis JCC in Boca Raton, Florida.
November 2012 - Naomi visited Île-de-France speaking about her books.
5 November 2012 - Naomi spoke at the Cockfosters and North Southgate Synagogue in London, England.

Categories

Fed Up

Encouraged by my own uneventful ride on a once sex-segregated bus a few months ago, I thought the whole topic was dying down and we were miraculously learning to live and let live. Unfortunately, the story of Tanya Rosenblit has brought the reality of bullying fanaticism masquerading as religious piety roaring back into the headlines again, with greater force than ever.

Traveling to the Givat Shaul neighborhood in Jerusalem from her home in Ashdod, she’d boarded the 451 Egged bus from Rova 7 in Ashdod, which would leave her a five-minute walk from her destination. Innocently, she selected the seat behind the driver simply because she wanted to ask him when to get off.

The driver didn’t say anything. What was there to say? Bus 451 has never been designated a sex-segregated or “mehadrin” line.

A haredi man boarded. Seeing Rosenblit, he insisted on standing by the doors, apparently because – and this is news to me though I’ve been Orthodox almost all my life – he was adhering to the latest, brand new ancient halacha that says a man can’t sit behind a woman. I’ve since tried looking up this halacha in the Code of Jewish Law, but couldn’t find it. I guess it’s on the same page where it says you can spit on a woman who isn’t dressed according to your taste, or throw down a seven year- old in the street on her way to school if you disapprove of girls learning too near where you live. Or perhaps there is a new code of Jewish law being written even as I type which, like the information on which buses are now being added to the mehadrin list, is only available to those self-designated few who have taken on the task of enlightening the rest of us.

Bus 451 was soon commandeered by one of them, who directed male passengers to block it from moving. Rosenblit was barraged with insults and epithets. Loud complaints echoed that their “rights were being violated.” It was eerily similar to what had happened to me in 2004. A bully in saint’s clothing trying to force me into the back of a bus kept saying things like “there are laws in this country!” Like Rosenblit, I felt humiliated and afraid. And as with Rosenblit, the driver did absolutely nothing to intervene and protect me.

That is why I joined the Israel Religious Action Center lawsuit in Israel’s Supreme Court: to clarify the laws governing public transportation and to prevent my experience from ever happening to another woman in Israel. Although the Supreme Court decision last year clearly bans forced segregation on buses and demands bus drivers intervene in case of such harassment, clearly there is no compliance.

A policeman, called to the scene in Ashdod, spoke briefly to the driver and at length to the haredi men finally boarding the bus to ask Rosenblit to move to the back “to honor their feelings.”

Her answer rings in my ears: “They have to ask themselves what honor it brings them to degrade and humiliate a woman.”

Rosenblit has been vilified on haredi Internet sites, which I guess is to be expected, given that their code of Jewish law is also missing the pages about avoiding the great sins of libel, slander and gossip and how embarrassing a person in public is akin to murder. What haven’t they said about her? That she didn’t live in Ashdod. That she boarded the bus in order to provoke an incident. That she deliberately stuck her elbow into the aisle, forcing men to touch her when they walked by (as if!); that she threatened to take all her clothes off if they didn’t leave her alone. Rosenblit has called all these accusations “a vile lie.”

Invited to join Rosenblit on the evening news with Dan Margalit, I was astonished when Margalit, whom I have always deeply respected, put Rosenblit on the hot seat, insinuating that as a journalist (she’s a production assistant for JNI News and lists herself as a translator and student at Camera Obscura) she might have been trying to provoke a news-making incident.

I was sickened by this line of questioning.

As I told her on air, she is a heroine and I hope every woman would have the guts to behave as she did. I’d like to use this opportunity to apologize to her. The purpose of all our efforts in going to court was to keep her and women like her safe from this kind of harassment. But if this is the result of our efforts then we, and the State of Israel, have failed her miserably.

Who is responsible? Well, the Supreme Court for one. Instead of outlawing sex segregation on buses altogether, it has left the back door open, literally and figuratively, turning buses into war zones and leaving women to face lynch mobs filled with a renewed sense of entitlement. It’s the police, who strive for expediency and order instead of enforcing the law. It is our minister of Transportation, who made a promise he couldn’t keep that no woman would be forced by violence to sit in the back of buses. It his fellow government ministers who pander to religious extremists in the name of political expediency all the while happy to cover their tracks with paeans to cultural diversity, as if the Jewish religion were some exotic cult whose members have customs we have never before encountered.

And it’s our sorry form of coalition government that allows little parties to redraw at will all our social, religious and cultural red lines, moving them ever forward and beyond until they are barely visible.

But I’m happy to note that the accumulation of ultra-Orthodox outrages has finally, finally caught up with them, leading to a real paradigm shift in thinking. The majority in Israel is fed up and the usual haredi whine that “the public is being incited against us” isn’t working anymore.

I too used to subscribe to the comforting idea that it was only a small number of haredi extremists involved in the bullying and abuse of women, the silent majority disapproving from afar, cowed into silence.

I’m no longer comfortable with that idea, which is sounding sickeningly similar to the liberal contention, all facts to the contrary, that Islam is a religion of peace.

If there really is a silent majority of haredim who disapprove of spitting on little girls who wear sandals without stockings or humiliating women who refuse to be invisible, then let’s see them open their mouths and say so for once. After all, as we have seen numerous times in the past, who better than haredim know how to gather thousands when they want to voice opinions on subjects that matter to them?

 

This article was first published in the Jerusalem Post on 30 December, 2011.

3 comments to Fed Up

  • Sue Deutsch

    As usual–you are right on target! It is starting to remind me of Rosa Parks…..

  • Carol

    I am totally dumbfounded that this hassament has no consequenses.Why are these men not procecuted? What’s wrong with Israeli women that they tolerate this type of behavior. For a country that is the champion of the oppressed,they need to take a closer look at themselves.
    When fanatics are allowed to flourish,one really has to question the leadership of the country.

  • Davida

    Thank you for speaking the truth on behalf of all Jewish women – for those of us who are deeply grateful and for those who have been subjugated so long they don’t know or understand the truth.